For me, the most important thing I could do was know my illness. I hate not being in control, the thought of no control sends me into a crazy spiral of mixed emotions and it never ends well. The only way I could help myself understand what was going on inside my head was to do my research.
During high school, I completely went about this the wrong way. I’d set up a private Tumblr account which my friends had access to and I used that as a blog. I would sit for hours and hours on end reading through other people’s blogs, however I never went through anything positive. I never looked at people who were seeking help, I would continuously look for justification that I could feel the way I did without having to seek any help from anyone. This was so unhealthy, and in fact I think it made me worse. Im not saying that this is bad for everyone, but there were so many triggers that I couldn’t help but read and get caught up in. This was my way of coping at the time and now it just angers and embarrasses me that I ever went down that path.
I studied Health and Social Care at a-level and i’ve never been more appreciative of a subject in my whole life. The course was 50/50, half coursework and half exam, and luckily for me one of the main coursework topics was mental health. I never picked this subject thinking that it would help me mentally, I picked it because it really interested me and I loved the amount of coursework involved. In order to achieve the grades I wanted, I had to put as much effort that was humanly possible into my coursework as I tend to flop when it comes to exams. This was a god send when it came to the mental health topic. I knew about mental health and I thought I was quite educated in the area, however this course taught me that there is ALWAYS something new to learn. I done hours upon hours of research into different mental illnesses, the way mental health is portrayed in the media, the nature vs nurture debate and it really helped me admit that I may have a mental illness. I’d written essays about anxiety, bipolar, depression, schizophrenia, bulimia and I felt like my brain was going to explode. I’d obtained all this new information and some if it just felt so familiar, some of it just really hit home. I educated myself on all of the charities that were available and what their services could provide, which was very useful information a couple of years later. I got my coursework handed in and I didn’t really think twice about it, but it’s all still up in that little brain of mine. One statistic that will never leave me is that an average of 6 million people living in the UK have an anxiety disorder, 6 million! It just goes to show that you are never alone, and there are always people out there that have felt the way you feel and they are more than happy to help.
The information I learnt enabled me to be more open minded towards others and mainly helped me understand that it’s ok not to be ok. It’s ok to have bad days and its ok to get anxious. What’s not ok is when you deal with it in unhealthy ways and keep it hidden until you break. Get as much help as early on as you can! It wont fix you, it will never go away, but it sure as hell provides you with much better ways of coping.
The two websites that really helped me when I was getting to know my illness were both mind and the NHS. I understand that these are both UK based charities, however i’m sure other countries offer a similar equivalent. If not, there are plenty of useful sites on google that are full of helpful information, don’t be afraid to look around!
Know your illness and take back control!